Former University of Arizona standout and eight-year NBA veteran Channing Frye is in a good place. He signed a four-year, $32 million contract to switch from one up-start team in Phoenix to another in Orlando. The definition of a stretch forward, the 6-11 Frye has averaged at least 2.0 3PM on 37 percent shooting in three of his last four seasons.
The No. 8 overall selection to the New York Knicks in 2005 is one of the most unique talents in the NBA, a large part of the Suns surprising success a season ago, and someone who Goran Dragic will miss in the pick-and-roll.
For all of his current success, it is important to remember, however, that none of this was guaranteed to Frye after dealing with a scary injury just a couple years ago.
Frye began dealing with heart issues in the second half of his third season with the Phoenix Suns in 2012. He was forced to refrain from the majority of basketball-related activities the following season when he found out that he had an enlarged heart - something that could jeopardize his career.
As a professional athlete, such news must be so mind-boggling - that something completely out of your control could force you to quit the game you love. It’s why the basketball community was so emotional toward Baylor center Isaiah Austin’s call of honor in the 2014 NBA Draft. Austin’s illness, which forced him to forgo his NBA career, carries an emotional magnitude.
Thankfully for Frye, his playing career has just begun. A heart issue is certainly nothing to mess around with, but he made the comeback last season and the 31-year-old big man played an essential part in Phoenix’s shocking success this past season.
In his four seasons with Phoenix, Frye shot just about 39 percent from downtown. After returning to Arizona after playing in New York and Portland, Frye was immediately welcomed back home by a well-respected Suns organization. Frye was happy to be playing with a Hall-of-Fame point guard in Steve Nash - both to learn from an elite, experienced player and to work in such a high-paced, pick-and-roll centric offense.
Now, five years since Phoenix invested so much in him, younger players such as Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon will look up to the veteran as a valuable locker room presence. On top of being a key mentor on and off the court, Frye will provide Orlando with a much-needed knockdown shooter. The Magic have built a nice core of top-notch athletes in Oladipo, Gordon, and Tobias Harris. Outside shooting was an issue that clearly needed to be addressed this offseason; Orlando took care of that problem by inking both Frye and Ben Gordon to generous deals.
Finding your niche on the court and in the locker room is an important factor in becoming a successful NBA player. Frye has always been known as a great teammate as well as a very easygoing individual. Thus, his high character profile has certainly helped him navigate his way through his up-and-down career.
Frye’s signing with Orlando obviously won’t carry the weight of other relevant free agents such as LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. However, Frye can take a team to the next level because of his ability to step out and torch opponents with his three-point shooting. That, specifically, is a game-changer on a regular basis as it takes away sizable defenders from the hoop and forces them to stay out on Frye.
The Orlando Magic are not in “win-now” mode. However, the Magic will likely take a step up from a year ago - just the nature of the weak the Eastern Conference. Although they aren’t expected by any means to be a playoff team, sneaking into the No. 8 spot would not be a shocker. Well-respected veterans like Channing Frye will be a key ingredient in the progress of the youthful Orlando Magic.
Zach Tennen (@ZTennen11) is a staff writer for The High Screen and a student at the University of Arizona.